The countdown is on for summer’s unmissable beer event, Ballarat Beer Festival. Back for its seventh year, the festival is moving to a new location of Lake Wendouree that will soon be transformed into a craft beer lover’s paradise.
“The change in location will make a huge difference to the atmosphere of the festival,” says festival director Richard Dexter. “It’s going to be much more laidback, if it could possibly be any more laidback than it already is. It’s just going to be delightful to be able to lay in the shade all day, listen to great music and escape the summer’s heat.”
If you’re not from Ballarat, it might seem like a long drive for a beer, but it’s actually a great excuse to get out of town to sample, sip and savour a smorgasbord of craft beer in the sun. This is especially true with Ballarat being the centre of Australian home brewing (and otherwise known as Beerllarat for that particular weekend), with three locally-loved micro-breweries, along with a multitude of home brewers and even a university course for home brewing at Federation Uni. Ballarat Beer Festival was even voted the third most popular beer festival in Australia this year, and the most popular festival regionally, by 17,000 odd craft beer lovers.
With the aim of creating the ultimate boulevard of beers, the family-friendly festival will showcase 34 of Australia’s leading craft beer brewers, giving the crowds – and the craft beer enthusiasts – the chance to sample over 150 craft beers and ciders, further fostering the explosion of the Australian craft beer scene.
“Our main intention is to showcase Victoria’s and Australia’s leading craft brewers – independently owned businesses,” Dexter explains. “We don’t feature brewers that are owned by the big names, it’s all about the independent craft brewers and supporting small privately-owned businesses that are employing lots of people and keeping the money in Australia.”
Alongside the festival regulars, there are a number of brewers coming to Ballarat for the first time, including Daylesford Brewing Co, Tumut River Brewing Company, Westside Ale Works, Valhalla Brewing and The Foreigner Brewing Company.
This year will also see a range of new and creative brews on the lineup as well, such as the ‘Citra Sour’ beer from Fury and Son Brewing Company, the seasonal ‘Lamington Ale’ from Quiet Deeds, the ‘Jedi Juice’ from Hop Nation and the easy drinking summer style beer with mandarin notes from Valhalla Brewing.
“We have lots of new beers this year and quite a few new breweries as well,” Dexter explains. “It’s mostly award-winners and the popular brewers, plus a couple of country guys and a couple from interstate who are doing extremely well. BentSpoke Brewing Co from Canberra who are coming actually have their beer on Singapore Airlines which is fantastic, especially since a lot of airlines only buy overseas-owned beers.”
We know beer isn’t for everyone, so don’t worry if you’re not an esteemed beer lover. Along with an impressive showcase of ciders from many of the brewers, there will be wines from Mitchell Harris Wines, Sangria, Gin and Tonic Slushies, ginger beer and a gluten free beer.
Don’t be fooled though. The festival isn’t just about drinking (unless you want it to be). Festival-goers can also sharpen their beer knowledge on the day with a range of free education sessions led by Beer Diva and Professor Pilsner. Here, you’ll get the opportunity to meet the local brewers, learn how to take your homebrew from the garage to the ‘Big Time’, take a stroll through the world of weird and wonderful beers, along with exploring the possibilities and challenges facing beer in the future. With all sessions offering free samples, it’s the perfect excuse to pop in and learn and thing or two.
The festival will also see the return of the Gallagher’s Friday Night Degustation Dinner, providing guests the chance to mix and mingle with the brewers while enjoying a delicious five course menu served with perfectly matched beers. Adding to the festival highlights, Ballarat beer lovers will again battle it out for home brew glory with the Summer Slam Home brewers competition. Here, the winner will be given the opportunity to have their winning brew on tap at Ballarat’s Mallow Hotel – giving them ultimate bragging rights. With the lakeside edition being all about celebrating the very best of craft beer culture, there will also be blind tastings, beer trivia and the return of the highly popular brewer’s sack race. There’s also a range of kid’s activities and a petting zoo to keep everyone entertained.
Mixed in with many of Australia’s finest large, small and emerging independent breweries, you’ll find a dozen food stalls all serving up global culinary delights you can match with your favourite brews. There’ll be everything from Farang Thai BBQ, Round The Way Bagels, The Forge Pizzeria and Just Chips Victoria to Riverina Jerky and Slinky Spudz – just to name a few.
Alongside the brews and the food, it wouldn’t be a festival without the tunes. This year the good vibes will be flowing with the likes of rambunctious rock’n’rollers, The VANNS headlining along with bands including, Ballarat’s own Butterfunked, Mast Gully Fellers, Hana and Jessie-Lee April, Centre and the South, Michael Meeking & The Lost Souls and One Night Only the Blues Brothers Revue.
“We’ve got really interesting bands this year. We’re trying to support local bands as much as we can. In fact most of these bands are seven to nine piece bands, other than a couple, so the stage is going to be crowded but it’s going to be full on,” Dexter smiles.
As one of the most laid back, relaxing festivals anywhere – recognised by the public and brewers alike as the best regional beer festival all in Australia, all you need to do is bring your picnic blanket, chill out and enjoy the brews.
For tickets and further information visit ballaratbeerfestival.com.au.
When & Where: Lake Wendouree – January 20, 2018.
Written by Talia Rinaldo